Plate Tectonics

SciPackDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

SciPacks are self-directed online learning experiences for teachers to enhance their understanding of a particular scientific concept and its related pedagogical implications for student learning. Unlimited expert content help via email and a final assessment both facilitate and document teacher learning.

The Plate Tectonics SciPack explores the various materials that make up Earth and the processes they undergo to provide a framework for understanding how continents are created and change over time. The focus is on Standards and Benchmarks related to Earth’s layers, oceanic and continental plates and the interactions between plates.

  • Elementary
  • Middle
  • High

Community ActivitySaved in 3777 Libraries

Reviews (27)
  • on Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:14 PM

I found this scipack very informative. I did not realize all the information out there about plate tectonics. I have been out of high school for over 20 years, and I had never heard of a lot of the facts that where in the scipack. Anyone could use and benefit from this scipack. Scipacks are time consuming, but such a great resource. I like how they are broken down into separate lessons.

Amanda Mills
Amanda Mills

  • on Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:20 AM

I am a Junior, majoring in Elementary Education, and I completed this SciPack for my Teaching of Science class. It was a great review of some of the concepts I have forgotten since taking geology two years ago. All of the interactive activities worked very well and it was easy to navigate. I am and auditory visual learner, so I loved the listen while you read feature.

Bailee Vertner  (Crossville, TN)
Bailee Vertner (Crossville, TN)

  • on Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:18 PM

This SciPack has an abundance of information! Would be perfect for a thorough study of plate tectonics in the classroom. Allows students to individually discover many different concepts in relation to plate tectonics. I would likely only have students complete one section at a time, as doing sections back to back can be overwhelming. Overall, however, the SciPack contains detailed explanations, visuals, and quiz questions that do a good job of checking for understanding. Really made me think and furthered my understanding of plate tectonics.

Brittany N
Brittany N

  • on Fri Nov 03, 2017 7:55 AM

This scipack was a great refresher for me. I am currently finishing up my masters degree in Middle Childhood Education and obtaining my teaching license. I have a million things in my head at all times, so often I need to refresh my knowledge. The scipack was informative and easy to use.

Courtney Johannssen  (Springboro, OH)
Courtney Johannssen (Springboro, OH)

  • on Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:34 PM

I have not revisited plate tectonics since high school. This scipack offered great information with great visuals as well. This will be a great resource to go back to prior to teaching a lesson on this content.

Anisa  (Dayton, OH)
Anisa (Dayton, OH)

  • on Tue Nov 29, 2016 7:01 PM

This scipack was very good! I learned about this material in a college course and it was a great refresher of the information. The scipack gives great detailed information and discusses thoroughly all information on the final assessment.


  • on Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:02 PM

This SciPack was a great review on plate tectonics. I have studied plate tectonics recently (within the past year) but still have trouble with the different fault lines and what they create. The graphics and interactive activities that are used throughout the resource are extremely helpful in figuring out the main differences.

Gabrielle G
Gabrielle G

  • on Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:01 AM

After this SciPack I feel that I gained a better understanding about it. If you were to do a Space/rock SciPack this is the one I would recommend. It talks about earthquakes,and Continental drift. If you are wanting to get a better understanding for that look no further than here!

Haylee Layne  (Murfreesboro, TN)
Haylee Layne (Murfreesboro, TN)

  • on Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:20 AM

Completing this SciPack was a great way to review information about plate tectonics that I had already learned and information that was new to me. I enjoyed going through each section and developing a deeper understanding for this subject. When I completed the final test, I truly felt like I had accomplished an important goal that will aid me in the future.

Joshua Ray
Joshua Ray

  • on Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:36 PM

The structure of the SciPacks really help me understand the underlying concepts that surround each topic. I had a lot of fear of science before learning about the NSTA Learning Center, and Initially, I was unsure of how well I'd grasp scientific concepts in a self-paced, online format. However, the carefully sequenced topics, interactive activities and simulations, in addition to the voice-over explanations work well together to help deepen my understanding in the content area. Especially valuable are the pedagogical implications and common student misconceptions. I feel a lot more knowledgeable about a subject after using a SciPack, and I highly recommend the Plate Tectonics SciPack to anyone needing to learn more about this topic or review key concepts.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:09 PM

I used this resource a lot in my middle school Earth Science Class and also as a C-DEBI asset during ALI'I with great results! Plat tec sometimes is difficult for middle schoolers and this worked extremely well!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Sun Oct 28, 2012 1:19 AM

This SciPack is very informative. It provides great information on plate tectonics by walking you through a history of how today's understandings were developed. It was interesting to see how the theories such as continental drift evolved years ago, and yet it took many years later for technology to finally prove these hunches. The simulations and visuals play a critical role in increasing your understanding. So, sit back and enjoy learning about plate tectonics! Although you may not teach all of the material provided to your students, the depth of information definitely provides you, the teacher, extra confidence.


  • on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:50 AM

This SciPack featured very brief sections with lots of pictures. This mean for less scrolling, and I think that also meant easier processing. The author was clearly fond of using humor in the writing. There is a lot of redundancy in this SciPack with the "Earth's Changing Surface" SciPack. A lot. Since repetition is vital for true learning, this may be a good thing. If you can only choose one of those two, I think I would make it this one.

Eric Carlson  (Royal City, WA)
Eric Carlson (Royal City, WA)

  • on Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:30 AM

The Sci pack Plate Tectonics was very thorough. It covered the information on the Earth's layers, and interactive relationship of the plates. There is a whole section on the boundaries and seismic waves that are pivotal to understanding how earthquakes are measured,as well as, how scientists have used them to study the inner part of our amazing planet. The Scipack seemed very long. I spent several weeks in the evening getting through all the material. It was to my relief then that certain information was recycled through so I didn't feel I needed to be retaught some thing again. For example the animations really helped review without having to read too much. I found this Scipack very helpful in increasing my understanding of the paltes.

Ruth Friedlander-Levantis  (Pleasant Valley, NY)
Ruth Friedlander-Levantis (Pleasant Valley, NY)

  • on Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:22 PM

As a relative newcomer to teaching Earth Science, this resource served as a wonderful review of challenging topic. From distinguishing between continental and oceanic crust, convergent-divergent-and transform boundaries, I now feel more confident in helping to address the misconceptions that my scholars exhibit about plate movements.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:35 PM

As my first Scipack, Plate Tectonics shook up my memories of high school science and reformed my thinking about this ever changing planet. The numerous examples created relevancy and helped me connect to my prior knowledge of natural disasters, geography and earth science. The multiple colored maps illustrated the concepts of divergent, convergent and transform boundaries with clarity. The Hands-On ideas, such as the Silly Putty and the loose leaf paper on the desk experiments to portray plasticity and gravitational pull, would be easy to duplicate in my classroom. The curriculum spirals nicely so that the concepts are reviewed and build on each other. This Scipack followed good teaching strategies of multi-sensory examples, formative assessments and reteaching. I highly recommend this SciPack to teachers who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the forces and history of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Erin Mendelson
Erin Mendelson

  • on Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:23 PM

This SciPack does an excellent job of explaining plate tectonics

LeRoy A
LeRoy A

  • on Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:11 PM

Very detailed and I learn something new!!!

Nikki T
Nikki T

  • on Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:35 PM

I feel like alot of the information I already knew. Some of it I learned while I was completing it. I feel like the wording on a few of them were hard to understand. Overall I loved the Scipack I completed.

Kaleb Greene
Kaleb Greene

  • on Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:55 PM

The SciPack has a lot of good and interesting facts. The layout is very user friendly.

Sonia Ramirez  (Baytown, TX)
Sonia Ramirez (Baytown, TX)

  • on Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:14 PM

This Sci Pack was really interesting! It did a great job at explaining the information and presenting the information in a way that can be learned.It was a lot of information and I recommend that you do this over a few days and not in one sitting. I also had issues with my browser not being the correct size, I had to use a different computer. That portion is really important, therefore, if yours is not working try another computer. That information is vital for successfully learning and passing this Sci Pack.


  • on Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:45 PM

I used this resource to write a hypothetical science lesson for my science methods course and I'm sure I'll be referring back to this and other SciPacks when I begin my teaching career! I enjoyed the visuals and how the information was chunked so that it wasn't as overwhelming as reading a traditional textbook. I took the SciPack final assessment twice, but I was not able to see the correct answers matched up to my own responses, which was disappointing.


  • on Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:12 AM

This was a great refresher prior to teaching this unit. The information was easy to understand and follow.

Stephen Kirsche  (St. Johns, FL)
Stephen Kirsche (St. Johns, FL)

  • on Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:43 PM

I enjoyed most of the Scipack. The material was fine but the practice quizzes and review questions were very obvious and, again, the final assessment questions were loaded up with trick questions not meant to test your comprehension but to distract and confuse. You can have a very good understanding of the subject matter but not pass these Scipack assessments because they are filled with minutiae and gray areas that can result in a wrong answer for a multipart question in which you get 90% of the answer right and a subjective response appears that can result in a graded incorrect response. This is a horrible way to approach testing of teachers who are probably already covering this material and probably have a far greater understanding and mastery that the score reflected in these assessments. I would have a lot of issues with a student teacher who devised assessments for testing mastery as I have experienced multiple times in this Scipack experience.

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:25 PM

Very helpful resource to learn about or update your knowledge about plate tectonics for your middle school classroom. Good visuals and entertaining news clip articles. The only downside was that there were a few multi-answer diagram questions that were a bit confusing. It wasn't clear which letter matched up with which plate boundary! However, all in all, it was worth going through and gives ideas for classroom activities.

Hillary Mason  (Washington, DC)
Hillary Mason (Washington, DC)

  • on Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:37 PM

This SciPack was really educational and a really good resource for professional development. I, however, have taken geology as a college course so I was familiar with a lot of the information. As I was going through the SciPack, I was noticing how confused I would be if I had not already taken Geology, but I guess that is how learning new content is. One feature I did really appriciate was the narrating of the passages. I am a auditory learner so it was super helpful to have the information read to me as well as me having the text there to read.

Amber Almond
Amber Almond

  • on Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:27 AM

This SciPack described the Earth’s structure with a focus on the crustal plates, and their interactions to include phenomenon like earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building. One Science Object is devoted to each of the following areas: Layered Earth, Plates, Plate Interactions, Consequences of Plate Interactions, and Lines of Evidence. I am math certified and trying to get science certified, so I found many things that I had forgotten or never become fluent with. The content that had the biggest impact for me was the material in the Science Object “Layered Earth” which describes the Earth’s seismic events and how waves from earthquakes travel through the earth. This object, for the first time, gave me a good intuition of how seismic waves travel through different material in the Earth. This content actually complemented what I was learning in the SciPack the Nature of Light. Being able to see the similarity in how the different waves behave gave me a better understanding of both seismic and light waves. Still we are talking volcanoes and Hawaii is given no love here.

Floyd  (Honolulu, HI)
Floyd (Honolulu, HI)

$14.39 - NSTA Members

$17.99 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.